It’s afternoon on the day when we wakened early on Mount Pelion to watch the eclipse of the Blood Moon. The magic still lingers. The eclipse had looked like great branches of light, inviting us, as Jean Houston had said, into the next level of our human becoming, activating our essential humanness as it moves to its next possibility.Now we are about to explore our lives, to see them as heroic journeys, to discover that next level of our human becoming, that next possibility that awaits.
Massive branches hover protectively above us as we gather beneath the ancient plane tree in the courtyard of St. Paraskevi Church. The tree is older than the story we are about to hear, older than the storyteller, older than the listeners.
Jean is going to take us through the story of “The Wizard of Oz”, to illustrate the stages of the heroic journey, using the framework created by Joseph Campbell in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces.
The first stage is the call. In the film version of the story we see Dorothy in a dying wasteland, living on a farm in a dust bowl with an aunt and uncle as grey as their home, so focused on counting their chickens that they cannot hear Dorothy’s cries for help. The only life in the scene is Toto and when he is threatened by Miss Gulch, Dorothy becomes desperate, longing for a new place, a place of safety and happiness, “somewhere over the rainbow”.
Miss Gulch arrives and takes Toto away. When the little dog escapes, Dorothy determines they must run away. They don’t get far. Professor Marvel receives them with kindness and understanding, then urges Dorothy to return as her Aunt Em is sick with worry over her…That might have been the end of Dorothy’s search for a new life… the end of longing, the refusal of a call that feels impossible….
But then comes the twister, the twist of fate that knocks her on the head, picks up the house and carries it with Dorothy and Toto inside it, to Oz.
So this is where our journey begins: the call to leave a way of life that we have outgrown, followed by a refusal… because we can’t find our way or we don’t feel ready or we must put it off until we have placated Aunt Em….
Then fate steps in and, ready or not, we are on our way!
“What emotional or psychological twisters have you brought on yourself in order to get away from Kansas?….Taking on a twister is what human beings often do to get from here to there. And sometimes twisters just arrive on their own steam.” (Jean Houston in The Power of Myth and Living Mythically 183-4)
What call allures us now? What are our reasons for refusing?
Meeting the Guide, Crossing the Threshold
In the heroic journey, following the hearing and refusal of the call, Joseph Campbell found that the hero(ine) was given a guide, a supernatural helper to assist in crossing the threshold, which was guarded by a fierce presence. Arriving in Oz, Dorothy meets Glinda, the wise friend who can guide her steps in this wondrous strange land. Glinda is the archetype of the benign protector, a figure who appears in all myths. It is a figure that lives in everyone. In fact, look inside now and ask for your Protector to come forward. You may feel or sense their presence in many ways….You can even begin by imagining a radiant bubble of light coming toward you, and then opening up to reveal…who?” (Jean Houston, 187) Glinda will be Dorothy’s protector from the ferocious witch who is determined to punish the girl who killed her sister by dropping a house upon her. In addition to Glinda, Dorothy will gather three more allies: the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion who will assist her in her quest: to find her way home, even as Dorothy offers to assist each of them in his quest.
to be continued…